How to Train a Dog to Go Potty on Command - PetHelpful - By fellow animal lovers and experts
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How to Train a Dog to Go Potty on Command

Adrienne is a certified dog trainer, behavior consultant, former veterinarian assistant, and author of Brain Training for Dogs.

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Why Train Your Dog to Go Potty on Command?

Training a dog to go potty on command can be very helpful in many circumstances. For instance, many dog owners may find it helpful during the winter when frozen minutes may feel like hours awaiting for Fido do his business! And what about in summer when you're enduring scorching heat, giving blood donations to pesky mosquitoes? Or when traveling, when it's time to leave but your dog needs to go? Dogs do not generalize well, which means a dog who is used to going potty on the grass may have a hard time going potty on gravel, or a dog used to potty off-leash may have trouble going potty when on leash. Stopping a journey for a potty break with a dog who does not want to do its business may put a significant dent in your travel plans.

By putting the action of going potty on cue, you will help your dog generalize, upping the chances for going in areas that do not look much familiar. The dog will therefore hear the familiar command and associate it with the process of eliminating. The familiarity of the command helps bypass the unfamiliarity of different places and different surfaces. Best of all, once your dog learns this command well, going potty becomes almost a reflex, where your dog just does it without much thought involved.

Training your dog to potty on command works just as any other command, so start training in a quiet place with little distractions then, once your dog has reliably learned the command, you can use it in other places.

Helpful Command for Potty Training Purposes

Teaching your dog to go potty on command is also very helpful for potty training purposes. I train all puppies with this method so that potty training becomes a breeze. A common problem people who are potty training encounter is a puppy who is sent out to potty but fails to do so. Often this happens because the puppy is distracted or is more interested in playing and exploring the yard. Then, once back inside, the puppy eliminates in the home. If instead, you train your puppy to eliminate on command you set your puppy for success as your puppy will eliminate first thing once outside and then can enter the home with an empty bladder/bowel.

How to Train a Dog to Go Potty on Command in Three Steps

You can teach your dog to potty on cue by taking your dog to his usual potty place. There are basically three commands you can teach: the generic "go potty" which entails urination or defecation or the more specific "go pee-pee" and "go poop" commands. To train "go potty," which means "let's go to your potty area to do business" here are some steps:

  1. Start teaching this first thing in the morning. In the morning you'll set your dog for success since that's the time he's most likely to go after a long night of sleep.
  2. As soon as you see your dog is about to squat or lift his leg, enthusiastically say "go potty" or the more precise "go pee-pee" Timing is of the essence; you want to be precise enough that when you say ''go potty' your dog is actually urinating. This training method is known as "capturing" since you are capturing spontaneous behaviors so you can later put them on cue.
  3. Immediately after going potty praise your dog and give a treat. Repeat every morning. At some point, you may no longer have to wait to see he is about to go, your words ''go potty'' will be enough to cause him to automatically go do his business. Remember to always praise and reward!

Why it works: The cue "go potty" will help your dog associate the command with the action of peeing. Your praise and the treat will make your dog more eager to do business over and over. This is positive reinforcement training, therefore it will increase the chances the behavior will repeat and increase over time.

Tip: Most dogs will pee first, and then poop afterwards, so you can take advantage of this, by teaching your dog to "go pee-pee" as your dog starts urinating, and then waiting a bit and saying "go poop" as your dog starts emptying his bowels.

Warning: make sure you praise and reward your dog after he has completely finished his business. If you are too early, you will interrupt the urine flow causing him to need to go potty again a bit later! This is a common cause of dogs having an accident in the house right after being sent outside.

Generalizing to Other Areas

Now, that your dog has learned how to go potty on command, as with all things you train, you can move on and try to apply the command to new areas slightly away from the original potty spot. As your dog gets good at this, you can then introduce new surfaces, new places, on walks and so forth. Go gradually, and if your dog has difficulty, you may have to take back a few steps and resume to easier areas/surfaces. Remember to add distance as well, telling your dog to go potty from a distance. Don't forget to train your dog to potty on leash, some dogs are inhibited by the leash and will only go off leash. The more variety you add, the more you will help your dog generalize the action of going potty in different scenarios and under different distractions.

How Training Our Dogs to Potty on Command Helped Us

  • On a cruise trip, dogs had a small designated area to eliminate. Many dog owners were struggling getting their dogs to potty in that area. Some were missing the area, others were unsuccessful in getting their dogs to go. We were very lucky thanks to the "go potty' command. This meant we got to spend more time in our cabin with our dogs, versus many dog owners who spend a good part of the trip trying to convince their dog to potty in that area.
  • When we were getting ready to board our dog on a plane, it was important to have our dogs eliminate, as the next opportunity was after the 8-hour flight. The go potty command helped us ensure that our dogs were empty so they could have a comfortable flight without worrying about needing to eliminate.
  • When it's raining, saying go potty gets our dogs to potty quickly so our dogs get less wet and we don't have to stand in the rain for long.
  • When our vet asked us for a urine sample, it was very easy to collect as upon hearing the command to potty we were able to immediately capture a fresh sample.

As seen, training a dog to pee and poop on command can save considerable time and prevent you from freezing in the cold winter months. It could also turn out helpful if you need to collect a urine or a stool sample for your vet. There are several other circumstances such as emptying your dog's bowel and bladder before you head to work or before boarding your dog on a plane. As seen, teaching the go potty command is very well worth over all!

Questions & Answers

Question: Can adult dogs be trained like this or only puppies?

Answer: Yes, adult dogs can be trained as well, although it may take a bit longer. As a matter of fact, I recently trained a potential service dog to potty on command. It took about 4 weeks of daily practicing to go in the yard reliably on command.

Comments

Adrienne Farricelli (author) on September 07, 2020:

Mango Salsa, your dog may be too distracted or stressed on walks. Try walking him in quieter areas and while you are at it, aim to teach him to go potty on command.

Adrienne Farricelli (author) on April 24, 2020:

Hi Ann, You need to always keep her in your line of sight in a room near the outside door. No furniture blocking. Always praise and reward when she goes potty outside. Keep treats in your pocket so you're always ready. You want her to learn it's very rewarding go out. Train her to go potty on command, it doesn't cost nothing to say "go potty" every time she goes potty outside.After about a month, they start associating the words with going potty. When you catch her about to go potty inside, be quick to redirect her outside. As you get up from sitting and you notice pre-potty signs, say "outside?" she may learn to come and get your attention with time .Here is more on recognizing signs. https://pethelpful.com/dogs/Signs-Your-Dog-Need-to... and here are other tips: https://pethelpful.com/dogs/Secret-Strategies-for-...

Anne on April 23, 2020:

Hi

We have a Russian toy puppy. She wees and poos outside as well as inside. She can’t tell the difference where to do her businesses. We also have older dogs and have no problems with them. How can I get her to poo and wee outside only? She is 14 was old. Thank you

Adrienne Farricelli (author) on April 01, 2020:

Hi Sherrie, it sounds like you need to work on several different levels. For instance, you will need to work on them backing away and cowering when you lean down and try to pat them, usually we do this through a desensitization and counterconditioning program with the help of a professional. https://pethelpful.com/dogs/Dog-Behavior-A-Guide-t...

You can practice indoors on your recall, by calling your dogs to come when their meals are ready, then you can practice sit/stays and calling them to you, and then work in areas with more distractions. You can use a portion of their meals to reinforce coming when called.

Here is where to train sit stays: https://pethelpful.com/dogs/How-to-Train-Your-Dog-...

Sherrie on March 31, 2020:

I have two rescue dogs ShiPoos 4 and 6, and after a month it is still difficult to get them to come to me. It would be hard to offer them treats when on the leash as they will back away. Praise them I can do. When I attempt to lean down and pat them they cower and pull away. Inside they will come so close and that is it. To get their leashes on them the one goes into their bed and the other starts to run. It was a game of chase until one day I commanded the runner to stay and she lay down and waited for me to go to her. They have been trained at some point in their lives but connecting to that is difficult. Once on the leashes they walk very well at least the one does. the one who likes to run also likes to outside and likes to stop at every bush and blade of grass . Once she has done her business she will walk quite well on the leash.There is alot of work to do and at times it is very confusing.

Adrienne Farricelli (author) on February 16, 2020:

Yes, the issue you are seeing is pretty common. You can read more about dogs hiding to pee and poop here: https://pethelpful.com/dogs/Why-is-My-Puppy-Hiding...

If your dog pees on the edge, sometimes it may help to attach another pad to that to make the area a bit bigger. Make sure to praise and reward when you catch your dog peeing on the pad correctly.

ytcy on February 16, 2020:

Hi Need help,

Wondering if my toy poodle dog is 5 yrs old now and had not been well trained in toileting since we did not know how to start before. We were overreacted and pissed off when found mess all over the place. From then he is so scare of peeing or pooing in front of people in the house. So, he usually toilets when at night no body see him actually doing or no body home. We are using the peeing disposable pad in certain spots in the house however he always pees on the edge of the pad, it ends up always messy on the floor. Luckily he might pee on target, one or two times a month but mostly not on target pad. PLEASE..... help......

Adrienne Farricelli (author) on January 12, 2020:

Hi Bernadeth, please let you husband know it's animal abuse hitting a dog and the dog won't understand anyway. This approach will only potentially make a dog hand shy and fearful/defensive. I hope his threats are just made out of frustration rather than a real intent.

You have two options here: 1) keeping your dog enclosed in a playpen placed in an area of the home with a washable surface (bathroom or kitchen with tiles) and place pee pads on it or 2) being extra patient and teaching her how to potty on command and waiting for her to pee/poop before she comes back inside. You need to be extra rewarding on these outdoor trips, giving high-value treats every time she pee/poops outside. Start training this on days when it's not windy.

To make the wind less scary, you may find it helpful to try to invest in a windbreak dog enclosure or build one on your own in the yard, but make sure it's made of material that doesn't move much /make too much noise as that may be frightening too.

You may also need to work on some counterconditioning (creating positive associations with the wind) by feeding her high value treats and encouraging play when it's windy outside. The Jolly routine done on windy days may help: https://pethelpful.com/dogs/Using-the-Jolly-Routin...

Bernadeth Patton on January 11, 2020:

My frenchie gets scared when the wind is strong outside (being in Ireland it gets stormy on most days) and wouldn’t go out to pee and poop. So he ends up pooping in the kitchen. I’m stressed because my husband has hit him and said he needs to go away if not, threaten that he will kill him. Help. I’m really upset over this because I love my dogs so much.

Adrienne Farricelli (author) on August 19, 2019:

Here's something that may help you in the potty training process of the new puppy: https://pethelpful.com/dogs/Secret-Strategies-for-...

Mike1795 on August 19, 2019:

Hi, I adopted a dog that learned very fast to potty outside. But then he started to do it in one of the empty bedrooms like out of stress when I went to work. A friend of mine gifted me a baby great dane who is deaf and helped a lot my first dog with the stress issue and haven’t potty on the room anymore. But now I’m having a nightmare training the baby to go outside. He always end up peeing the stairs or the living room, also he likes to poo just inside of the door instead of doing it outside! It’s so frustrating, and he acknowledges that he know it was wrong but still does it. Any help will be much appreciated.

Mango Salsa on March 12, 2019:

Ideally how far apart in both timing and distance should the dog be urinating and pooping? We live in an apartment and have no private yard. Our 2.5 year bichipoo, who we adopted a year ago, will almost always pee in the "pee spot", but we are having problems with him not pooping on the walk and pooping in the home if he is uncrated and we are away. After a 30 minute walk he will have rejected multiple poop spots. In the past we would just extend his walk until he poops, but I am just so frustrated and tired of this. How can we get him to be less picky about where to go and not get distracted (he always searches for snacks on the ground when he poops!)?

Adrienne Farricelli (author) on December 27, 2018:

They sell umbrellas for dogs too an raincoats, but some dogs are inhibited by these too. Make it extra reinforcing to go potty, treats and praise. Training to potty on command helps but it may take a while to train but it's extra worthy.

psteenerson on December 07, 2018:

I will try this we just adopted a Yorkshire terrier mix 2 year old dog. We are reintroducing potty training she for the most part is good. It just recently started to rain and get cold which now she only wants to pee and poop on the under the covered porch section of our patio. I have tried treats and standing in the rain with an umbrella. I have one small section of grass that is covered but she won't go over there. Do you have any suggestions.

Adrienne Farricelli (author) on July 27, 2015:

I hope it works for you, along with training to go potty on command I would recommend also training that rain is fun.

Dennis on May 31, 2015:

My lab terrorist mix - male, pisses on every bush etc... But he will not crap when it rains. He will hold it til the next day. I will try this technique hope I can do it! Thank you!

Adrienne Farricelli (author) on November 16, 2012:

It helps tremendously. We had dogs with us everywhere, we moved so many times and we took them even on a ship and this command was great to speed things up!

GiblinGirl from New Jersey on November 16, 2012:

I'm going to have to try this. Sometimes my dog takes forever outside.

Preacherwolf2011 from Bloomington, Indiana on December 05, 2011:

Very interesting. Wonder if it would work on my children? I kid of course... informative hub!

34th Bomb Group from Western New York State on December 04, 2011:

LOL!!! That they are! Fine ones at that!

Adrienne Farricelli (author) on December 04, 2011:

Lol, 34th bomb group! For no reason I got certified as a dog trainer, I better know how to train my dogs! They are my business cards!

34th Bomb Group from Western New York State on December 04, 2011:

alexadry - I "hate" you.

Note my comment and you'll see why...

(Not really - you're darn LUCKY!!)

It further confirms that mine does it out of spite - or DOESN'T do it out of spite!

Adrienne Farricelli (author) on December 04, 2011:

zzron, both my dogs are trained to ''pee' and ''poop'' on command and it is great since we travel a lot and take our dogs along for hotel stays, cruises and on the plane.

zzron from Houston, TX. on December 04, 2011:

This was very interesting. I have heard someone in the past tell me the same thing. So I tried this with my dog, and it seemed to work.

34th Bomb Group from Western New York State on December 04, 2011:

I've been doing what you suggest for the last five (5) years. My dog is supposed to be an intelligent breed. I have very little luck in this department and have concluded that he is SO smart that he is teasing me and enjoys seeing me freeze to death.

I still do it, though.